Seafood springs up on The Avenue

Cowichan Bay seafood fare arrives on Oak Bay Avenue

Gregg Best showcases the live crabs available in the fresh fish shop Oak Bay Seafood that opened late in 2016.

Gregg Best showcases the live crabs available in the fresh fish shop Oak Bay Seafood that opened late in 2016.

A bit of a protein row grows on Oak Bay Avenue.

Seafood sprung up alongside the Beast and the butcher last month.

“Our lease is up (at Victoria’s Public Market at the Hudson) and this building was available so we jumped on it,” said Gregg Best of Oak Bay Seafood.

The shift meant a name change from Cowichan Bay Seafood to our local moniker to better reflect the new neighbourhood.

The seafaring saga started with the family Better Fishing Company the Bests started while living in the Queen Charlotte Islands nearly 40 years ago. They fished halibut, salmon and crab on the Hopefull. Now, they specialize in live dungeness crab and spot prawn fisheries that started with a small stand on the dock in Cowichan Bay.

The couple shifted to that neighbourhood’s fish shop, Cowichan Bay Seafood, seven or eight years ago. There they honed community, before branching out to operate a shop for a handful of years in The Hudson in Victoria. The fish and chips takeaway, with a few tables inside the new shop, became a value-added benefit during the Hudson years.

“They’re a great thing to put together because everything goes through your fresh case,” said Gregg, a fisherman for more than four decades. “We’re dealing in a pile of seafood and because we are, we’re closer to the source … we have more buying power and efficiency to get very fresh fish.”

In the dwindling days of 2016, they opened Oak Bay Seafood on the Avenue, bringing both the hot and cold offerings with them.

“What we learned is Victorians like to shop in their neighbourhood, in Oak Bay in particular,” Anne said. “All the prawns and all the crabs still come off our boat.”

They still also supply quality local and sustainable seafood to area restaurants and grocers.

They unlocked the doors and staffed the fish market and the kitchen to little fanfare. Gregg is unsure if they’ll launch with a grand opening, but have some other events planned for the year.

The fish market (and take-away counter) features tall freezers of stocks, chowders and smoked fish. A cooler highlights fresh, bright seafood and the kitchen sends off coleslaw scents to complement the fish and chips.

“We’re trying to connect people back to the community. It keeps that connection to food alive,” Gregg said.

Just weeks in, he already enjoys the community connection of the small shop on the street, not clumped into a larger market. He notes the neighbouring shops complement their offerings, the obvious being other proteins at the Whole Beast and Village Butcher, but less obvious perhaps the hardware store and insurance agencies where he also makes local purchases.

“Of course Oak Bay in and of itself is a great neighbourhood,” Gregg said. “People are friendly and very supportive. First week indicators are good.”

Oak Bay Seafood is at 2024 Oak Bay Ave. and online at www.oakbayseafood.com.